When eldest daughter left for college I never quite prepared myself for it. It took me totally by surprise that she leaving home might trigger past memories. The second time, last August, when my middle daughter left I was a little more prepared for the separation. What totally blindsided me was how similar my home life would track with 40 years ago. So there we are, me and my youngest daughter: alone at home, her two older siblings off at college. She’s 14: this is exactly me in the Fall of 1978. I didn’t literally get it at first. It was just the feeling of the house. The quiet. The way she behaves is a lot like me then; moody, then funny. Totally independent. She’s just been listening to everything these past 14 years.
The week of late October into November is always such a gut-punch marathon. There’s Halloween, then my brother’s birthday on November 1st. Of course, November 3rd. And then election Tuesday. There was even a Quebec election that weekend in 1978.
Speaking o the horrors of the season, I found this article on Simone Weil which is a balm:
I woke up this morning wondering what that Saturday must have been like in the Eastern Townships 40 years ago. It was a beautiful fall day, like today. The football team had their big game. The owners of that farm in Compton were probably up and out doing weekend things. And in the field adjacent to their farm, there was this beautiful girl lying dead in perfect stillness. Exposed to the elements in her brassiere and underpants. Later that afternoon these two hunters enter the woods near Magog and find women’s clothing resting on a tree trunk.
It seems impossible-improbable that it took 8 days for my parents to be notified she was missing. Ten days for me to be notified, November 11, 1978, Remembrance Day. Then you put on your investigator hat, and when you clock the time, the manner in which events fell out, you understand why it took so long for everyone to wake up.
Tom Thomson was a Canadian artist of the early 20th century. Born August 5th, 1877 he is linked with Canada’s most celebrated group of painters, The Group of Seven, though as an unofficial member with his art usually being exhibited adjacent to the group’s in Canadian museums.
Thomson died in 1917. Despite a short career his work has been very influential in Canadian art. The tragic circumstances of his death at Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park, Ontario have lead many to speculate that Thomson was murdered or possibly committed suicide. The Myth and mystery of Tom Thomson continues to this day.
Thomson was born in Claremont, Ontario, Canada. He grew up in a large family, the sixth of John and Margaret Thomson’s ten children. Thomson was raised in Leith, Ontario, near Owen Sound. Thomson and his siblings enjoyed both drawing and painting, though he did not immediately display any major talents. He was eventually taken out of school due to a respiratory issue, allowing him the freedom to explore the woods near his home and develop an appreciation for nature. He was a good athlete and enjoyed playing football.
In 1899, Thomson volunteered to fight in the Second Boer War, but was turned down because of a medical condition. He would attempt to enlist for the Boer War on three occasions but was denied each time.
Thomson briefly enlisted at the Canadian Business College in Chatham, Ontario, worked briefly for his older brother George at the Acme Business School, and traveled as far as Seattle where he worked as an elevator operator at the Diller Hotel.
Thomson was hired at Maring & Ladd as a pen artist, draftsman and etcher. He mainly produced business cards, brochures and posters. In 1904 he abruptly left Seattle and returned to Ontario, possibly due to a rejected marriage proposal following his brief summer romance with Alice Elinor Lambert.
Thomson moved to Toronto in the summer of 1905. His first job upon his return was at a photo-engraving firm, Legg Brothers. Friends described him during this time as “periodically erratic and sensitive, with fits of unreasonable despondency.”
During this time, he briefly studied with William Cruikshank, a British artist who taught at the Ontario College of Art. Cruikshank was likely Thomson’s only art instructor, as Thompson was largely self-taught.
Thomson first visit to Algonquin Park was on a canoe trip in May 1912. Thomson’s original painting style began to emerge at this time. Though his work was not outstanding technically, there was a noticeable ability with composition and colour. Thomson traveled around Ontario with his colleagues, especially to the wilderness of Ontario, which was to be a major source of inspiration for him. To earn money, Thomson sometimes worked as a guide or fire ranger in Algonquin Park. He became as familiar with logging scenes as with nature in the park and painted them both.
On July 8, 1917, Thomson was seen with Shannon Fraser, the owner of the Mowat Lodge. When it was too cold to camp in the park, he would often spend the night there. Mark Robinson, a park ranger, noted in his diary that Thomson “left Fraser’s Dock after 12:30 pm to go to Tea Lake Dam or West Lake.”
Thomson disappeared during this canoeing trip on Canoe Lake. His body was discovered in the lake eight days later.
The body was examined by Dr. Goldwin Howland who concluded that the official cause of death was drowning. The coroner, Dr. Arthur E. Ranney, MD, supported Howland’s conclusion that the drowning was accidental. The day after the body was discovered, it was interred in Mowat Cemetery near Canoe Lake. Under the direction of Thomson’s older brother George, the body was exhumed two days later and re-interred in the family plot beside the Leith Presbyterian Church near Owen Sound.
Many conspiracy theories have swirled around the nature of Tom Thomson’s death, including that he was murdered or committed suicide. Though these ideas lack substantiation, they have continued to persist in the popular culture.
In 1970, Judge William Little’s book, The Tom Thomson Mystery, recounted how—in 1956—Little and three friends dug up Thomson’s original gravesite, in Mowat Cemetery on Canoe Lake. At the time they believed that the remains they found were Thomson’s. In the fall of 1956, however medical investigators determined that the body was that of an unidentified Aboriginal.
In 2007, the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History project launched “Death On A Painted Lake: The Tom Thomson Tragedy,” a book-length, bilingual (English/French) web site featuring a selection of over fifty transcribed primary and secondary documents related to Thomson’s death, including documents never before made public, such as Blodwen Davies’ 1931 request to the Ontario Attorney General for opening of Thomson’s Algonquin Park burial site.
Utilizing, in part, the Great Unsolved Mysteries site transcriptions, Canadian newspaper columnist Roy MacGregor has described his 2009 examination of records of the 1956 remains unearthed by William Little (the remains have been reburied or lost) and concluded that the body was actually Thomson’s, indicating “that Thomson never left Canoe Lake.”
In an essay entitled, “The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson,” published in 2011, Gregory Klages describes how testimony and theories regarding Thomson’s death have evolved since 1917. Assessing the secondary accounts against the primary evidence, Klages concludes that Thomson’s death is consistent with the official assessment of ‘accidental drowning’. Historians Kathleen Garay and Christl Verduyn state, “Klages’ forensic archival sleuthing does provide for the first time some degree of certainty regarding this event.” Klages expanded on these ideas in a book with a similar name, The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson: Separating Fact from Fiction, published in 2016. He particularly challenges MacGregor’s claims, suggesting MacGregor is guilty of misrepresenting evidence.
The first mystery is, How Do You Pronounce It? L-O-N-G-U-E-U-I-L. I’ve heard many Anglos use “Longelle”, but it’s actually “Longay”.
Longueuil is part of what’s known as the “South Shore” of Montreal, though when I look on it on a map, it’s kind of East to me. Taking the Champlain or Jacques Cartier bridges, you cross off the island of Montreal, across the Saint Lawrence river and now you’re in Longueuil. It’s reputation is kind of shady and industrial, although I’ve only been there once myself. At Section Rouge Media, and the archives of Allo Police.
In terms of investigations Longueuil is the last stop on the Quebec criminal justice train. I have long railed against the failures and incompetences of the Surete du Quebec. But apparently compared to the Longueuil police I have been receiving Cadillac services. People actually lobby the Quebec Ministry of Public Security to have their Longueuil causes taken up by the Surete du Quebec. The family of Sharron Prior did it. As late as last Friday Stephane Luce was still doing it, he texted me from Montreal:
All seven men, who now range in age from 59 to 71 years old, face sexual assault charges stemming from when they were minors. Those charges, which deal with acts allegedly committed between 1957 and 1973, will be handled in youth court.
Either we are still waiting for this process, or it was dealt with quietly “off camera”, or the defense ran the clock, and everything got dismissed. We may never know.
If such casualness and indifference seems normal for Quebecers (I can assure you that no one has lifted a finger and questioned, “Hey? What happened with those brothers” ), notice the reaction from an outsider when they came up against the Longueuil justice system. Here I am referring to the October 21st 2014 murder of Jenique Dalcourt, beaten to death with a blunt instrument on a bike path in Vieux-Longueuil. This is the reaction from her grieving father, John Gandalfo who lives in New York:
Welcome to the club, Mr. Gandalfo, you may not have wanted to join it, but we’re glad you’re here anyway.
Like a lot of homicides in Longeueil, Jenique Dalcourt’s remains unsolved. In fact I’m having a hard time remembering the last time they cleared a stranger homicide. Maybe this one I recently dug up, but then the offender came right into the police headquarters and confessed to the crime:
34-year-old Myriam Valois vanished in January 1992. She lived with her parents. She liked to go clubbing with her friends along the bars of “the Main” in Montreal’s East-End. La Presse reported that Myriam had a “mental handicap”.
The morning of January 23rd, a man was walking his dog in a field behind 2399 de la Province in an industrial section of Longueuil when he made the grim discovery. She was found clothed, wearing blue jeans, a pink vest and black ski jacket. Later a citizen found a sports back sack containing Myriam’s belongings near Guimond. Valois was beaten severely with a blunt instrument, then crawled about 100 feet. Longueuil detective Serge Fontaine suspected several suspects, and the use of a vehicle.
One year later, one suspect walked into the Longueuil police headquarters and made this stunning revelation:
“I can’t live with myself anymore with this. I don’t sleep anymore, I want to see a detective about the crime of the girl in the industrial park…”
25-year-old Sebastien Rochette then met with detective Serge Fontaine and gave his full confession. He said that he knew Myriam Valois, they both suffered from mental handicaps. He had met her several times at the Midway bar on boule Saint-Laurent and on “the Main” in Montreal. On January 17th 1992 they went to a motel together on rue Saint-Hubert to have sex. Valois drank alcohol. Rochette consumed cocaine. The adventure went on for two days. Finally he drove her back to Montreal. But before getting on the Jacques Cartier bridge he made a turn on 2399 de la Province. Once there he beat her with a hammer several times to the head. Valois crawled about 40 meters before succumbing to her injuries. In the snow the police found the tire markings of a 1984 Toyota Camry, the same make of vehicle driven by Rochette. Sebastien Rochette was charged with first degree murder.
A lot of questions in this case, but for now they will need to remain unanswered. My point being that sometimes these matters are connected, and sometimes they are self contained.
Let’s jump back a decade and examine the 1985 Longueuil murder of Nathalie Boucher. This is another one of these cases lost to time. You would need to dig pretty hard in order to find any information about it.
Eighteen-year-old Nathalie Boucher was described as a model student and an exemplary young woman. She attended the CEGEP Edouard Montpetit in Longueuil, and lived with her mother in an apartment complex at 385 place de la Louisane, near route 132 / boule Saint Charles / Taschereau interchange. On the evening of Tuesday June 4th Nathalie planned to meet two friends at the Club / Discotheque La Moustache, which was located on rue Closse in the Atwater region of Montreal.
CEGEP Edouard Montpetit
Nathalie promised her mom she would be home by one one A.M. Getting home would require a metro and a bus ride; the metro from the Atwater station to the Longueuil terminus, and then a bus from the terminus to the stop along the interchange. From there is was less than 1,000 feet walk across the viaduct to the apartment complex.
The morning of June 5th, 1985 Nathalie’s body was discovered in the bushes near rue Saint-Charles and Taschereau, 800 feet from her home. From her 4th floor apartment window Nathalie’s mother could watch the police process the crime scene.
Nathalie had been brutally beaten, raped and strangled to death. Even worse, the coroner determined that Nathalie was probably keep alive intentionally for 2 to 3 hours so the offender could slowly mete out his punishment. Beating and kicking her, investigators believed the force and determination of the offender must have been astounding, measured, and cruel.
In this era, as I think I’ve demonstrated, there could have been any number of offenders responsible for such horrible acts. Exactly one year later two young women were attacked in the parking garage at the Longueuil terminus, and the press wondered if there might be a connection to Boucher. In these instances the man managed to get away, but left his jacket behind containing all his identification. Twenty-five year old Michel Larocoque was charged, and hopefully sentenced.
I possess a small case file on the Boucher investigation. I just never wrote about it did not appear to be connected to any case for which I had interest.
But there is one case that reminds me of Boucher, and what appears to connect them is the level of violence and a geographic location.
Two years later, in August 1987 sixteen-year-old Sophie Landry was last seen at the Longueuil bus terminus. Her body would be found stabbed 172 times in a field North of Montreal in St. Roch de l’Achigan. Guy Croteau eventually was arrested and is serving a life sentence.
In 2002, the Surete du Quebec released several photos of Croteau and asked members of the public to come forward if they had any information that could tie Croteau to other sexual assaults and murders.
One person did. In a 2004 Gazette article by James Mennie a woman named “Jeanette” came forward with the following assault from 1977:
“I was coming back from the Longueuil métro station to where I live,” she said. “I decided to walk rather than take the bus. It was about a 15-minute walk.”
It was also a walk that took her from the subway across an overpass that spans Taschereau Blvd. and, as she paced across the bridge in the twilight, Jeanette looked back and noticed what appeared to be the figure of a man standing by a blue glass building. She resumed walking and was about three-quarters across the overpass when she sensed “a very light touch … like a draft.”
“So I whipped around and this guy had his hand right up the back of my skirt. … I was just enraged to see him. I started showering abuse on him … and then bashing him. I had a very heavy purse and I swung at his head.
“After I yelled at him, the strangest thing is he looked as if he was going to cry. … He turned around and began to run. I began to chase him.”
She chased him?
“I don’t know. I was just so mad.”
Note that like Landry and Boucher, “Jeanette” was using the Longueuil metro. Also note that like Boucher, “Jeanette” had to cross boule Taschereau.
In 1977 did Guy Croteau attempt to assault “Jeanette” at the same location where Nathalie Boucher would be murdered almost 10 years later? Croteau would have been about 21 years old at the time. “Jeanette” seems to think so:
Jeanette put the incident behind her for eight years, even though she’d shake when she talked about it, until an 18-year-old girl was found raped and killed in a ditch that runs parallel to the overpass.
Nathalie Boucher’s body was found less than 300 metres from her Longueuil home. As of yesterday, her killing remained unsolved. “I always felt it was the same guy who did it,” Jeanette says. “That he decided to get it right this time.”
Now for me, this is the most extraordinary part about all of this. In researching this post I got really excited, “OMG, this is amazing, no one knows about this! etc..”
But when I looked closer I found that someone had already reported on all of this. It was me. In a 2004 blogpost I wrote about all of it Landry, Croteau, Nathalie Boucher, “Jeanette”. I wrote about it and then, along with everyone else, I forgot about it.
Ten years later, by the time I found the casefile on Boucher at Allo Police in 2014 I had forgot everything I had done.
So maybe Guy Croteau murdered Nathalie Boucher. There is another possibility that I’m putting out there; we’re late in the game with these cases, so all things must be attempted.
In that casefile there are several photos of a man who is not identified. He doesn’t appear to be law enforcement (too casually dressed), the photos appear like the photographer was surveilling him. If anyone can identify this man please contact me or the police:
Update: Guy with cigarette is the journaliste, Claude Poirier:
Once again, a colleague did some pretty brilliant maps:
Le lendemain matin, vers 7 h 20, les policiers découvrent Diane Déry et Mario Corbeil sans vie dans un boisé situé à l’extrémité du boulevard Rolland-Therrien. L’analyse de la scène démontre que les deux jeunes ont été assassinés.
Allo Police, 5 août 1979 par Jaques Durand
Après 4 ans et sans résolution, le père de Diane Dery, Jaques Dery demande au ministre de la Justice de l’époque, Marc-André Bedard, que l’affaire soit retirée à la police de Longueuil et transférée à la Sûreté du Québec.
En 1975, les Derys habitent au 1145, rue Bizard à Longueuil. Ils ont depuis déménagé à Saint-Célestin (Nicolet). Il travaillait dans une station-service, sa femme tenait la petite cantine à l’intérieur.
Les parents de Maro Corbeil, de M et Mme Maurice et de Françoise Corbeil ont continué de vivre à Longueuil, rue Boucher. L’avocat de Dery dans l’affaire était Guy Houle.
Un récit des événements des 20 et 21 mai 1975
C’était un mardi, une belle journée. Les parents de Mario lui ont donné une petite motocylette en cadeau. Mario a passé de nombreuses heures à en profiter, donnant des tours à sa famille et ses amis. Le dernier trajet était réservé à une petite amie, Diane Dery. Les familles ne les reverraient plus jamais vivant.
Map of Dery / Corbeil murders
Le lendemain, mercredi 21 mai, les corps ont été découverts dans un champ près de l’aéroport de Saint-Hubert. Mario avait été battu, puis abattu six fois avec un pistolet de calibre .22. Diane avait reçu une balle dans la tête avec le même calibre .22. Elle a été agressée sexuellement et son corps a été placé sur celui de Mario. Les corps ont été placés de manière à suggérer qu’ils avaient une relation sexuelle.
L’affaire a été confiée aux détectives Lacombe et Villeneuve de la police de Longueuil. Une douzaine de personnes ont été interrogées.
Après deux ans, M Jacques Dery a pris la décision de tout vendre et de s’installer ailleurs. La famille avait une nouvelle fille, Manon, et ils voulaient commencer une vie meilleure. Il déménage dans un coin de la province, Saint-Célestin (Nicolet). M Dery est devenu propriétaire d’une station-service le long de la route 20. Il a établi une solide clientèle. Il avait un autre projet en tête: faire sortir toute sa famille de Longueuil dès que possible. M Dery a acheté une maison et, au mois d’octobre, sa famille a déménagé dans ce petit village fort et sympathique.
Le travail était dur, il l’obligeait à travailler sept jours par semaine. Mme Dery, non satisfaite de son mari travaillant seule, a décidé de faire fonctionner une petite cantine à l’intérieur de la station-service. Malgré l’arrangement, il y avait toujours deux questions à répondre: QUI et POURQUOI?
M Dery a continué de communiquer avec les enquêteurs à Longueuil. Les enquêteurs ont continué à communiquer le même message: «Nous soupçonnons quelqu’un, mais nous n’avons pas la preuve.”
Voulant en savoir plus, M et Mme Dery ont rencontré le lieutenant-détective Maurice Lauzon, qui était à la tête de l’homicide de Longueuil. Il a informé le Dery qu’il ne connaissait pas le dossier, mais qu’il se mettrait rapidement à l’épreuve. Il a promis de téléphoner régulièrement à la famille pour leur donner des informations sur l’enquête.
«Il n’a jamais répondu, j’ai laissé des messages, mais il n’a jamais rappelé, c’était toujours moi qui devais téléphoner», a déclaré M. Dery qui a ajouté: «Si la police de Longueuil ne peut rien faire pour faire avancer le dossier, pourquoi? ne peuvent-ils pas le livrer à la Sûreté du Québec? Il n’est pas possible que deux jeunes enfants soient tués si près de chez eux, et ils ne peuvent rien trouver, ce n’est pas possible, peut-être que la Surete du Québec ne pourra pas pour trouver quelque chose non plus, mais nous aurions la satisfaction de savoir que nous avons essayé. ”
Au cours de l’entrevue, qui a eu lieu à l’intérieur de la station-service, alors que M Dery vendait des cigarettes aux clients qui allaient et venaient, son fils pompait du gaz et Manon se reposait sur le comptoir. Quand les choses se sont calmées, le garçon est entré et les enfants sont restés près de leurs parents.
Mme Dery, qui était assise à la fenêtre, a dit: «Après quatre ans, je suis venu à l’accepter, je sais maintenant qu’elle ne reviendra jamais, je l’accepte, mais pourquoi quelqu’un ferait-il cela?
Par l’intermédiaire de leur avocat, Guy Houle, les Dery ont demandé au ministre de la Justice du Québec, Marc-André Bedard, de transférer officiellement l’affaire de la police de la ville de Longueuil à la police provinciale, la Sûreté du Québec. Voici le texte de la requête de M Dery envoyé par l’avocat de Dery, Guy Houle:
“Honerable ministre de la Justice:
Considérant les événements du 20 mai 1975. mon enfant Diane Dery, 13 ans, victime d’un assassin, près de chez nous au 1145, rue Bizard à Longueuil;
Considérant que certaines actions et entreprises de la police municipale de Longueuil ont tenté d’élucider cette enquête, mais aucun résultat concret n’a été donné dans l’étude globale de cette affaire;
Considérant que maintenant, depuis plus de quatre ans, nous avions espéré voir des résultats dans ces affaires;
Considérant que la police municipale de Longueuil, malgré tous les efforts dont elle dispose, ne possède peut-être pas tous les outils nécessaires pour mener une enquête et obtenir des résultats;
Considérant surtout que la police municipale de Longueuil ne se spécialise pas dans ce genre d’enquêtes;
Considérant que la Sûreté du Québec a à sa disposition une escouade d’homicides;
C’est pourquoi les gens ont besoin d’être confiants dans les institutions, et certainement dans la protection de la société contre les assassins qui peuvent marcher librement parmi nous.
Nous soumettons cette demande à l’honorable ministre de la Justice de la province que vous prendrez part à cette affaire conjointement avec la police municipale de Longueuil pour faire la lumière au nom de la justice et de la sécurité publique.
Cette lettre a été envoyée au ministre de la Justice le 5 juillet. 1979. Il a également été envoyé à la police de Longueuil, le député de Nicolet-Yamaska, Me Serge Fontaine, et notre collaborateur à Allo Police, Claude Poirier.
Au moment où nous quittions Saint-Célestin, la jeune fille de Dery, qui jusqu’alors n’avait rien dit: «Aujourd’hui, les gens vont tuer pour deux dollars, nous voulons la justice, et tous savent pourquoi ils l’ont fait.
La famille Dery a souffert. Seront-ils heureux un jour quand ils connaîtront les noms des assassins? Nous l’espérons.
La famille Maurice Corbeil a également quitté sa maison de la rue Boucher à Longueuil. Mme Corbeil s’installe à Saint-Félix-de-Kingsey, elle aimerait continuer à aller en Beauce.
M e Corbeil est parvenue à un accord avec l’enquête. De la police, elle dit: “Nous étions soupçonnés d’être méfiants, je veux l’enquête parce que dans des choses comme ça, nous devons trouver les coupables.” Néanmoins, elle essaie de ne pas penser aux choses horribles: «Je ne veux pas de publicité pour mon fils, et je ne veux pas le regarder, pourquoi voudriez-vous de la publicité pour une telle chose?
En novembre 1979, le ministre de la Justice du Québec accepte les demandes des familles et transfère les dossiers à la Sûreté du Québec. Diane Dery et Mario Corbeil sont actuellement répertoriés sur le site Web de la Surete du Québec, toujours en suspens après 43 ans:
Coda: Dans l’article nécrologique de La Presse datant de 1975, on disait que Diane Dery «est morte accidentellement», probablement pour que la famille puisse éviter la honte dans la communauté.
Edmond Turcotte: “C’est une Fille De Rien et une Vache! Je L’ai Frappee avec n’importe quoi!”
Edmond Turcotte’s confession
Edmond Turcotte’s hand drawn map of the hotel room where he allegedly murdered Thibeault
Map of Diane Thibeault crime scene
Update May 3, 2018:
A colleague found this article where Edmond Turcotte was acquitted of the murder of Diane Thibeault:
Musique de WKT2 # 14:
Si vous n’êtes pas du Québec, probablement ne connaissez pas Harmonium. Si vous êtes du Québec, il serait difficile de ne pas connaître Harmonium. Je pense que Rolling Stone les a classés 35e sur la liste de rock progressif de tous les temps.
En grandissant, j’étais conscient d’eux, mais je ne les ai pas écoutés. En fait, ce n’est que l’été dernier, lorsque j’étais à Ottawa, que j’ai attrapé le bug. J’ai passé un après-midi au musée de l’histoire, qui possédait une impressionnante collection de culture québécoise, et l’une des installations était une zone d’écoute où l’on pouvait entendre des musiques fondatrices de groupes comme Cano, Beau Dommage et bien sûr Harmonium.
Certes, il y a des influences évidentes (Genesis et Supertramp viennent facilement à l’esprit), mais il y a quelque chose d’unique ici. Quelque chose que j’ai ressenti était très spécifique à 1975, et c’est pourquoi je les ai utilisés pour ce podcast.
La plupart des gens citent leur premier album comme la plus grande influence (tout le monde connaît Pour Un Instant), mais c’est leur deuxième album, Si On Avait Besoin d’une Cinquième Saison que je pense être le chef-d’œuvre.
Music from WKT2 #14:
If you’re not from Quebec you probably don’t know Harmonium. If you’re from Quebec it would be hard NOT to know Harmonium. I think Rolling Stone ranked them 35th on the all-time prog rock list.
Growing up I was aware of them, but I didn’t listen to them. In fact it wasn’t until last summer when I was in Ottawa that I caught the bug. I spent an afternoon at the museum of history, which had a very impressive collection of Quebec culture, and one of the installations was a listening area where you could hear foundational music by groups like Cano, Beau Dommage, and of course, Harmonium.
True there are obvious influences (Genesis and Supertramp easily come to mind), but there’s something unique here. Something I felt was very specific to 1975, and that’s why I used them for this podcast.
Most people cite their first album as the greatest influence (everyone knows Pour Un Instant), but It’s their second album, Si On Avait Besoin D’une Cinquième Saison that I think is the masterpiece.
The position of Canada’s Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime has stood vacant for six months. How Justice Canada and the Privy Council Office could allow this to happen is anyone’s guess. Walking you through my own experience in applying for the position reveals that it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Interior of the Privy Council Office
It’s been exactly one year since Justice Canada first advertised for the Ombudsman position. The former Ombudsman, Sue O’Sullivan had announced she would be retiring in August 2017 (a negotiation resulted in her staying on for an additional 3 months). This seemed like a great opportunity to correct the appointment from the Harper era. O’Sullivan was a former police chief: can you imagine a more appalling representative for victims of violence? (her Twitter feed quickly revealed she preferred to network with other LEOs). And BTW the OFOVC’s Tweeter feed is lost in the stone-age: pushing out information, with no effort to engage people.
Some associates in victims advocacy suggested I should apply. I thought they were joking and basically responded “they’d never let me run the office they way I want to”. Their response was quick and universal: “that’s why you should apply.” I reviewed the application criteria and realized I was well qualified for the job:
I have a Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in justice administration. Prior to being promoted to the position of Assistant Director of Budget & Management Services for the City of Durham, North Carolina, I was working on my PhD in Criminology.
I have experience working in finance and budgeting. I was the former Treasurer for the City of Durham. I have implemented or co-implemented the following government best practices in my career: strategic planning, performance measurement and management, priority / program based budgeting, multi-year financial planning.
At the operational level I run an office similar in size and scope as that of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime / OFOVC; Durham’s Office of Budget & Management Services is an office of 12 employees with an annual operating budget of approximately $1.3M, the OFOVC has 9 employees with an annual budget also of $1.3M.
Significant experience in Canadian victim advocacy: I was a founding member of the now dissolved Canadian Association of Victim Advocates (CAVA) and Quebec’s Association des Familles de Personnes Assassinées ou Disparues (AFPAD). I was one of many who lobbied for the creation of the office of a victims’ ombudsman. I am currently Board Vice-Chair for Long-Term Inmates Now in the Community (LINC) of Mission, British Columbia, whose project, Emma’s Acres helps former offenders and victims re-integrate into the community. Currently I act as a liaison between Quebec crime victims and the Surete du Quebec’s cold-case unit to ensure better communication between police and victims of crime.
Experience in the management of a complaints function, a review function or an investigative function: The City of Durham is nationally known for its engagement process with the community in annual budgeting. I work as an intermediary between the City and residents to ensure that their priorities are heard and addressed through a variety of mediums including public hearings, community meetings, annual digital townhall meetings, surveying, and social media platforms.
Our Budgeting office in Durham recently established an Innovation Division and was awarded a Bloomberg Philanthropies grant to foster and promote productive partnerships with community stakeholders with a focus of behavioral economics.
Finally I had good representational support in my letters of recommendation from victims from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. All of this I considered a good foundation to start the application process. True, I was a little rusty on some of the policy issues, but Justice provided good guidance on their website of the areas I needed to bone up on (The Criminal Code, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, Corrections and Conditional Release Act, etc…)
I began my process with a couple of softball pitches to the OFOVC, and the results spelled trouble. The first question I asked, “Does you office have a strategic plan” was met with “no we do not have a strategic plan”.
Wrong answer. The OFOVC does have a strategic plan, it is embedded in Justice Canada’s strategic plan. Furthermore, it is a carryover from the early Peter MacKay era. First issue: if you’re not aware of your strategic plan, what are you doing? How do you know where you’re going? How will you know you’ve arrived when you get there? Second issue: a strategic plan is a living, dynamic process, it is not a binder of paper that sits on a shelf. It should be updated every two years, with the goals and priorities coming from the victim community and its stakeholders.
The second matter is a little trickier to explain, and involved the matter of the 1977 Montreal murder of Katherine Hawkes. Murder cases are usually matters for the provinces and local law enforcement, but Hawkes’ murder was unique. She was murdered at a CN railway station, which is on Federal land, so the cold case was initially assigned to the RCMP. This meant that the OFOVC did have jurisdiction and authority over assisting in the victims inquiry of the Hawkes murder. Representing Hawkes’ cousin I made my inquiry to the OFOVC. Here’s the response I received:
“Thank you for communicating once again with the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime (OFOVC). Any matters or issues pertaining to the RCMP… I would encourage you to communicate with (them) given that they would be in a better position to answer your questions and or direct you to the best resources….
Wishing you well Mr. Allore in finding resolution.”
Never mind that I had already informed the OFOVC that I had previously communicated with the RCMP and found them unresponsive, the OFOVC kicked-the-can right back to the RCMP.
Things were not looking good for a continued relationship the the Office of the Ombudsman, but I submitted my application anyway, and began to do my research, never believing I’d ever get an interview anyway.
Things Get Worse
In reviewing the OFOVC’s materials one thing became immediately apparent: their annual report was really bad. The format hadn’t been updated since the Steve Sullivan era (the first victims ombudsman). Too many glossy photos paying lip service to diversity. A series of recommendations, but an office without any clout to see them implemented. Their performance measures were the worst: all workload, a lot of counting: Number of calls received. Number of email responses. Nothing that told you the Office was moving the needle substantively on any victim policy issue.
Further, the Ombudsman was a contract employee with options for renewal every three years. Who could possibly advance policy under these conditions? With a three year mandate?
The first thing I would be doing on day one of employment? Looking for my next job.
Even further, everyone the Ombudsman supervised in that 9 person office was a career Federal employee. If they didn’t like you or the direction you were moving they could simply wait you out. They weren’t working for you, you were working for them.
My suspicions and hesitancy were confirmed when in mid-June 2017 I was contacted by the Office of Privy Council and asked to travel to Ottawa for a formal interview. My interest in the position at this point was still sincere, I thought I at least owed them a chance to explain some of my perceived issues and challenges. From this you can see my approach to the whole process: They weren’t only interviewing me, I was interviewing them.
The interview took place in July 2017 at the Privy Council Office on Wellington. I met with a panel of five (all women) from Justice, Privy and OFOVC. The process was a fairly canned, stiff affair. Round robin questions, with the panel taking time to scribble and score you – yes this a familiar process, it’s the one we use in Durham when we interview candidates – but no one allowed room to open things up, and delve into specifics. In Durham, if a candidate brings something up that you feel might need more mining, you have the freedom to go off-script and probe. There was none of that with the OFOVC process. The hour was so rigid I assumed at the time that they had already chosen someone and they had made up their mind to go-through-the-motions with me (we now that not to be true!).
80 Wellington Street
The worst was the french question. This had been telegraphed and prompted beyond believe. All candidates were told prior to the interview that there would be one question in french. Before the interview commenced one of the panel – again – told me that a french question was coming (you were an idiot not to know it was coming from the one panel member with the heavy french accent). When it came, it was lobbed at me at slow-motion speed, as if I were in elementary school. And then – again – I was reassured I could respond in English.
Why the hell would I want to respond in English? If I wasn’t capable of communicating in french I had no business representing all victims as the Ombudsman of Canada.
In the course of the interview I did manage to communicate to them what I thought I was capable of accomplishing in three years. Traveling around the country and meeting stakeholders was important, but I had no intention of being a pamphlet pusher and glad-handler. The OFOVC needed to first conduct a survey of victims and representatives not simply to determine who the victims were (the current focus of most victim surveys), but more importantly, what do victims need and want. From that, develop a strategic plan that is independent of Justice Canada, establish metrics that are measurable, then work toward achieving some goals and making some decisions that are data-driven. If the expectation was for the Ombudsman to become fully involved in the #MMIWG process it would need complete support and transparency from Justice. Advancing policy along the lines of victim representation in the court process would need more time, a 5 or 7 year mandate / contract.
When the interview ended I was allowed time for one question of my own, and it was made clear they wouldn’t address salary and benefits at this point. I was briskly escorted out of the building.
Maybe we weren’t such a good fit. Maybe they didn’t share my vision, or I theirs. Maybe they just didn’t like me?
What happened next forced me to burn a bridge. I don’t mind writing all this because I made up my mind last November that I would never take the position of Federal Victims Ombudsman of Canada.
First, had we arrived at a salary and benefits discussion I was pretty firm that I was going to ask that the Ombudsman be reclassified 2 steps up in the Federal pay grade ladder, and that I be given – at least – a 5 year contract. They never would have agreed to this, so the thing was never going to happen anyway.
Second, in the room I said something to the effect of, “you couldn’t pay me enough to do this job!” This woke them up, then I clarified: You do this work out of passion, money can never truly compensate for the efforts required.
Then there was the whole reimbursement thing.
I traveled to Ottawa on my own dime with the promise of being reimbursed on submission of all my receipts. All receipts were submitted electronically in July. I was told they need the original receipts, they would need to be mailed. I mailed them. I waited.
August, I waited. I emailed. I called. I waited.
September, more calling, more emails, more waiting.
I was told the matter was held up in the Federal central accounting office. I had submitted a reimbursement request for a $3.50 bus ride from the airport, but no receipt (I lost the receipt).
Now at this point I have to stop and go into this. I had been extremely responsible with all my expenses. I could have taken a $60 limousine to and from the airport. I could have stayed at the Laurier, I stayed at the Elgin (they were having a sale). I could have charged them for three nights instead of two, I didn’t think tax payers should pay for my extra day of museums and sightseeing… And now my money was tied up in process over a $3.50 cent bus ride.
And here’s the punchline. In November – 4 months after my interview – they mailed me a cheque for my expenses. Well for some of my expenses. I was on the hook for approximately $1,200 American (net of anything like the third day of lodgings, etc…). I received a cheque for approximately $800 Canadian, roughly half of what I went out of pocket for with the whole ordeal.
And I couldn’t even cash it. I had to wait until the end of November when I was in Kingston to get the Canadian funds from RBC… cross the street to the bank exchange to covert it back to American, in which process I lose EVEN MORE MONEY.
I did receive a rather perfunctory email from the Privy Council that basically said that if I had any complaints I could take them up with the Prime Minister.
That’s it people. That is you Federal Justice process at work.
Canada does deserve a good victims ombudsman. The position should not be standing vacant for 6 months, the need is too important. But it won’t be me.
Sasha Reid is a PhD candidate in Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Toronto, AND has spent 11 years studying serial homicide. Last summer Sasha contacted the Toronto police with a basic profile of the man she suspected was stalking the city’s LGBTQ community.
Early this year police charged Bruce McArther with six murders. The investigation into McArthur, a 66-year-old landscaper, has revealed that police found remains of at least six people at homes on Mallory Cresent, where McArthur mowed the owners’ lawn in exchange for storing work equipment in their garage.
Many of the characteristics of Reid’s profile matched the behaviors of McArthur.
A discussion with Jo-Anne Wemmers, Professor at the School of Criminology of the Université de Montréal about her latest book, Victimology – A Canadian Perspective.
Jo-Anne has published widely in the areas of victimology, international criminal law and restorative justice. Her research interests focus on victims in the criminal justice system in the broadest possible sense. Former Secretary General of the World Society of Victimology, she is currently Editor of the International Review of Victimology and the Journal international de victimologie.
I attended Trinity College with Malcolm Gladwell at the University of Toronto. In the course of the last thirty years we have attended two weddings together; one infamous and bombastic, the other sweet and unforgettable.
This is a slightly longer version of an an interview I did with Malcolm for GovLove International, a podcast about emerging issues and trends in local government. If you’re wondering what links a conversation with Malcolm Gladwell and a website about unsolved murders consider the issues of social justice:
Half a haunted house ( What’s the scariest thing?) The Montreal Jack The Ripper (Mary Gallagher and Thomas Neill Cream) Tales from the Crypt of Journalism ($150 beat job) Ripper Redux Terrifying Tales from a Book Tour Mohanbir’s Radio (Everybody’s Restless) The London Rippers (formerly the London Werewolves) What’s that scariest thing? The post Grab […]
Last week Quebec Premier François Legault appointed former Montreal police officer Ian Lafrenière to head the province’s Ministry of Indigenous Affairs. This follows the ouster of Sylvie D’Amours, criticized for her failure to address discrimination facing Indigenous people in the wake of the death of Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old mother of seven, who died in a… […]
de Eric Volmers / Calgary Herald / Oct 9, 2020 / Traduit par Micheline Lampron John Allore sait que son histoire est irrésistiblement accrocheuse pour les journalistes : un frère endeuillé, ne croyant pas à la version officielle concernant la mort mystérieuse de sa sœur, passe des décennies à chercher la vérité, jusqu’à l’obsession. Allore comprend… […]
Eric Volmers, Calgary Herald / Oct 09, 2020 John Allore realizes his story has an irresistible hook for journalists: A grieving brother, unconvinced of the official story about his sister’s mysterious death, spends decades obsessively searching for the truth. Allore understands it’s a dramatic angle. But, in an interview with Postmedia from his home in… […]
Wednesday, April 29, 1981 It is late evening and 55-year old Germain Derome and his 52-year old partner, Julien Bessette are retiring for bed. There is a knock at the door of their modest Brossard bungalow located in the suburbs along the south shore of Montreal. A young woman identifies herself as a surveyor for… […]
I want to thank everyone for their outreach so far in supporting the book launch of Wish You Were Here. But I didn’t want to write a book to check off a bucket list. I wanted to write a book so people would read it. I appreciate the messages of sympathy. Many of you knew… […]